LAPD Plan To Pinpoint Muslims Draws Fire
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses a summit of the Alliance of Civilizations, a forum promoting understanding between the Western and Islamic worlds, in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, May 31, 2012. Ban called on Syria Thursday to stop its attacks, saying U.N. observers monitoring the cease-fire were not there to watch the killing of innocent people, days after more than 100 people were massacred in Syria's central Houla region.(AP Photo)
The LAPD's counterterrorism bureau plans to identify the location of Muslim enclaves in Los Angeles in order to determine which might be likely to become isolated and susceptible to "violent, ideologically-based extremism," Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing said Thursday.
"We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities," said Downing, who heads the counterterrorism bureau.
Downing said the plan is still in its early stages but the LAPD wants to work with a Muslim partner and intends to have the data assembled by the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis.
Downing testified about the plan before a U.S. Senate committee on Oct. 30.
"It has nothing to do with racial profiling," Downing told Claudia Peschiutta of CBS radio station KNX. "We're trying to determine country of origin, language, socio-economic conditions, age, gender demographics.
"We're really trying just to better understand so that we can respond and understand how Islam expresses itself in Los Angeles."
There are an estimated 500,000 Muslims in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
"This is nothing short of racial profiling," ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston told the Los Angeles Times.
On Thursday, several Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sent Downing a letter expressing "grave concerns" about the program.
"Singling out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data-gathering based on their religion constitutes religious profiling that is just as unlawful, ill-advised and deeply offensive as racial profiling," said the letter.
It was signed by representatives of the ACLU of Southern California; Muslim Advocates, a national association of Muslim lawyers; the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The plan "basically turns the LAPD officers into religious political analysts, while their role is to fight crime and enforce the laws," said Hussam Ayloush, head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who signed the letter.
"We obviously reject this idea of demonizing a group of people by virtue of mapping them," Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, told KNX.
However, another group, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, is considering working with the LAPD on the project.
"We will work with the LAPD and give them input, while at the same time making sure that people's civil liberties are protected," said Salam al-Marayati, the council's executive director.
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